Posts Tagged ‘sushi’

We arrived in Ikebukuro, Tokyo, Japan around 7:30am.  Jet-lagged, disorientated and in desperate need of coffee, we waltzed into the nearest STARBUCKS from our Hotel.  Immediately, I thought, I can’t believe I’ve come all the way to Japan for a STARBUCKS!  But that wasn’t necessarily the way the rest of the trip was going to (Ja)pan out!

Once we got our bearings around the area we decided to head into air conditioned paradise (any shopping mall; be it over or under ground) just to get out of the scorching heat and stumbled upon a lunchtime spot that seemed to be ending its lunch service but were quite happy to take us in.

Ramen, spicy chicken and misoWith my limited Japanese and pointing at pictures in a menu, I ordered a set meal with a bowl of ramen – a Japanese noodle soup dish which was flavoured with ox tongue – and spicy chicken pieces served over rice and the ubiquitous miso soup.

All dishes are accompanied by miso soup – a traditional Japanese clear broth made of stock called “dashi” into which softened miso paste (fermented soya bean paste) is mixed, tofu is often present in white blocks floating in the soup.   Miso soup is quite savoury, so I can only imagine it being fundamental in helping people replenish fluids and salts lost through sweat!

In the evening, we walked around the area of Ikebukuro and were somewhat intimidated by going into small, local establishments with only 5 seats available at a counter, full of locals and or people leaving work, as we almost couldn’t communicate with the proprietor without picture menus!  However, using Trip Advisor, we eventually found a conveyor belt sushi place that came very highly recommended.  The chefs and head chef in the centre of the track creating the sashimi/sushi, often to order, treated every dish as if it were the best dish they would be creating that evening.  Precision and skill evident in every piece.  The fish was delectable and easily washed down with green tea, poured directly at every seated station.  Great fun – delicious food; Oishi!

The following morning we headed to an area of Tokyo called Roppongi and once again dived into the nearest STARBUCKS for a dark chocolate-mocha frap which is the only way to battle the morning heat!  And after much tall building climbing, temple hunting and shrine locating we had worked up a bit of an appetite.  This time we settled for steamed dumplings, gyoza, and spring rolls (vegetable and prawn).

That evening we took a trip to Ginza – the 5th Avenue of Tokyo – and in a local basement bar sampled Yakitori.  Japanese IMG_1546chicken pinchitos! Yaki – grilled; tori – bird in the context of food, therefore, put it together = Yakitori is technically grilled chicken skewers but in Japan it’s not just thigh meat that gets a turn on the bbq.  Chicken liver, heart, gizzards and chicken skin are also given the bamboo stick skewer treatment.

So we ordered some fried calamari which were succulent and delicious and a plate of these varied 5 ‘meat’ yakitori.  I quite like offal depending on the way the product is cooked – the yakitori were  bold and gutsy in flavour; salty with a charcoal edge – very tasty, however, I couldn’t bring myself to eat the chicken skin which was pallid and uncooked!

Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo is the world’s largest fish market and is a prime tourist sight – especially for jet-lagged tourists.  It opens at 5am but if you want to be allowed into the world renowned Tuna Auction you have to get there at 4am to try and get a place.  Being there early does not guarantee you a visitor’s pass!  But wondering around the market at 9am when the stall owners are beginning to clear up is worth a viewing.  The various fish, molluscs and crustaceans that are caught and sold wholesale are an impressive sight.

After this and a river cruise to Asakusa for more temple spotting in the heat, we stopped for a very necessary cup of shaved ice.  Imagine slush puppies that hold their shape as a mountain of ice flakes and squirted with whatever flavour syrup you want: from fruit flavours to matcha green tea flavour.  I enjoyed my watermelon flavour as a reminder of summer back home.

However, on the return to the hotel and needing a pick-me-up we stopped at cafe Italian Tomato, for an iced coffee and a huge slice of lemon meringue pie!  Buzzing with sugar and caffeine we were ready for the evening in Harajuku.

Warning:  the Japanese slurp their food as a way to create ‘umami’ the 5th flavour (sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami) plus slurping cools the noodles down.  So if eating a bowl of ramen, slurping away to your heart’s content, your shirt will exhibit the effects!  As happened that evening over dinner!

We left Tokyo the following morning and headed to Matsumoto via Nagano; home of the Soba Noodle.

Not only did we get to try amazing cold soba noodles with tsuyu (a dipping sauce made with dashi, sweet soy and mirin) but we were fortunate enough to see a Soba Master rolling buckwheat dough out to make these thin soba noodles.  In summer, soba noodles are usually served cold on a bamboo tray called a zaru with seasonal toppings – we ate ours with vegetable tempura.  I particularly liked this meal; the noodles were light and did not sit heavily on the stomach as pasta can sometimes.  The tempura, crispy and incredibly light.

With full bellies we packed our bags and headed to the station for the next stage in our journey.  Join me.

Saturday morning.  8am. Body clock still set.  Coffee to kick start the wake up process.  Pottering around the house and finally surfing and checking the latest news on social media.  And there it was.  A phone number.  I dialled…  “Do you have any left? …I’m on my way!”

My summer began beckoned to Coaling Island.  What mystical attraction reeled me in?

tunaTUNA

Social media is a great thing.  A family member had posted that local fishing enthusiasts were selling their catch off their boats and posted a phone number.  I called and arranged that I’d swing by to pick up a couple of kilos of their recently caught tuna.

Unfortunately when I got there he had sold out.  So I made my way along the pontoon to another lucky fishing enthusiast.  I watched avidly as a recently caught tuna was moved from boat to pontoon.  Having already put in my claim for 2 kilos worth of fresh tuna I lingered whilst a team of men cleaned, sliced and prepared bags of tuna to sell to the first who turned up.  “6 kilos! Two bags with 5 kilos in each! My restaurant wants…”

3.8Kg of tuna later I made my way home thinking of all the delicious recipes I was going to create with ‘my’ catch.  Most however were going to involve a tuna steak; grill marked and quiveringly rare or cubed and made into pinchitos.

No exciting sauces – none needed when the product is this fresh.

I went to work cutting the 3.8Kg hunk of tuna into decent sized steaks ready for my tuna dinners throughout the summer.  I made tuna steakssure to cut a chuck off that I was going to use immediately in an experiment: maki sushi rolls.

I have never made my own maki rolls before but they are remarkably simple to make.  All you need is a bamboo rolling mat, nori (dried seaweed sheets) and any fish/veg/meat that you wish to use.   Most supermarkets stock these items but Ramsons stocks all of the asian components needed.

The most important thing to get right when making sushi rolls is the rice.  Make sure to buy sushi rice which is more glutinous once cooked.  Once cooked, add rice vinegar with dissolved sugar and salt.  Mix it well and set to cool.  Chop the cucumber into batons, slice spring onions and cut the avocado into slices (I didn’t have any ripe avocadoes so left them out.) Sesame seeds to either sprinkle over or use around some types of maki roll are an optional extra.  Pickled ginger as a palate cleanser, soy for dipping and wasabi to spice it up make the whole experience more authentic.

Please note: Sushi recipes will always ask for “Sushi-grade” tuna/salmon.  This is fish that has been frozen for at least 7 days at -20˚C to kill any parasites.  However, bluefin tuna, yellowfin tuna and farmed salmon are exceptions.

sushi1

Considering how easy it was to make I will definitely be trying to make these maki rolls again.  It would be something fun to do with other people round: DIY Dinner.  If you’re up for a night of sushi making let me know – the combinations are endless.

マグロ真紀ロール – おいしい!